Will Flattr, a micropayment specialist, prove to be PayPal’s equivalent for blog financing?

Rooftops, or all we can see of the future of blogging

Welcome, Flattr.

Yours is the most practical solution I have seen so far to the question of how bloggers can make a living from blogging – without selling out to corporate advertisers.

I only learnt of your existence last week from a tweet about your ‘Pay a Blogger Day’. I am doing my best to help make tomorrow, 29 November, the start of something wonderful.

I shall be picking three bloggers to support, and will try to put a Flattr button here, soon – when I extend this post I am tapping out with too little time in a month of travelling and disruption.

Workable micropayments are crucial to the success of an egalitarian model for net publishing outlined in a blog entry here and described in detail in this paper.

Until I can post again, I will think about your descriptions of the Flattr enterprise, and the meaning of tomorrow:

Pay a Blogger Day is our effort to put the bloggers in the spotlight to recognize the value they bring to the internet.

………………………….                 and                     …………………………..

Flattr was founded to help people share money, not just content. Before Flattr, the only reasonable way to donate has been to use Paypal or other systems to send money to people. The threshold for this is quite high. People would just ignore the option to send donations if it wasn’t for a really important cause. Sending just a small sum has always been a pain in the ass. Who would ever even login to a payment system just to donate €0.01? And €10 was just too high for just one blog entry we liked…

Flattr solves this issue. When you’re registered to flattr, you pay a small monthly fee. You set the amount yourself. At the end of the month, that fee is divided between all the things you flattered.

2 December 2011 

I did indeed open an account with Flattr – which happens to be in Sweden – but its software has so far rejected my attempts to pay anonymous micro-tributes to two of the bloggers I chose. Nor does the Flattr button I added to this blog work yet. As I have had fires to tend elsewhere, there has been no time for a sustained attack on the problem.

So … that is another reminder of PayPal – not as the well-oiled and useful service it has become today, but in its early years, when it was still keeping its parents awake with teething traumas.

The idea behind Pay A Blogger Day remains excellent. This modest scheme, like Flattr itself, could be one stepping stone to collaborative publishing that is jointly owned and run by many. We do not know whether Flattr will live up to its promise but if it fails, some other organisation will find a way to act as a medium for computing and distributing microscopic sums of cash.

Computers, as most of us still perceive dimly, will turn out to be crucial to real democracy not just because they have brought us the net, with its capacity to gather and mobilise groups of people, but because they do complex arithmetic so effortlessly. In not-mathematics designed to give a mathematician a blue fit, you could say — to make this memorable,

 many equals = share precisely = an awful lot of counting

Governing Switzerland — the world leader in extreme democracy, as I have pointed out before, on this site  entails extraordinary feats of number-crunching. In explaining how the Swiss system works, the historian and political scientist Jonathan Steinberg has noted:

The Swiss prefer proportional representation to majority systems. ..[T] he ‘Sovereign,’ ‘the people’, is really sovereign …

The most striking single manifestation of that sovereignty is the intricacy of voting.

He supplies illustrations of the extreme delicacy of Swiss ‘instruments for measuring the popular will’. Do not worry about the specifics of his context – which has to do with the ways in which proportional representation divides seats on a certain governing council between different political parties (in some cantons). Consider only the complexity and sophistication of the calculations involved – for one example of which he quotes a fellow-scholar, Christopher Hughes:

Divide the total vote (60,000) by the number of seats plus one (11). The result is called the Provisional Quotient (5,454). In our example, it gives the provisional result of 6:2:1:0:0. But this only adds up to 9, and there are ten seats to be allocated. The second sum seeks the Final Quotient. This is obtained by dividing each party’s votes by the provisional number of seats it obtains, plus one. Thus List A (36,000) is divided by 7 (6 plus 1) and gives the result 5,142. This sum is repeated for each seat in turn, and the highest of the results is the Final Quotient; in our example, 5,142 is the highest. It is the number which when divided among each result in turn gives the right number of seats.

Got that? Right. Thought you would.

True democracy = massive computation.

We need you, Flattr, but please get the bugs out of your software – unless it turns out that mine is to blame for my inability to make another blogger’s day.

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